Surprise! Chicago hates free speech


September 19, 2012 by Julia

Freedom of speech is my favorite Constitutional right.  The level of our American commitment to free speech sets us apart from the rest of the world; I am proud that we are (as far as I can tell) the only country that does not criminalize hate speech.  Go ahead, hate all you want!  I don’t care, and I will defend your right to think and say hateful things as long as you do not engage in violence or specific exhortations to immediate violence.

This is why today’s report that Chick-fil-A agreed to various conditions to open a second location in Chicago–if true–disgusts me.

In a press release Tuesday from The Civil Rights Agenda, which BuzzFeed first reported earlier today, the group said Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno “has confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations and that they have clarified in an internal document that the company will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”

I don’t care about the content of Dan Cathy’s speech or Chick-fil-A’s speech.  I don’t care!  It’s irrelevant!  But WHAT THE HELL is an elected official doing actually proposing as part of what appears to have been a negotiation that a private entity or citizen curtail his, her, or its speech?!

To recap, an elected Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno, refused to take the necessary legislative steps for Chick-fil-A to open a location in his ward until the company jumped through various hoops he invented.  Now, this sort of coercion by itself is super shady, but hey, this is Chicago, after all, and Chicago isn’t even unique when it comes to city council members running their districts like medieval baronies.

The issue here is that the reason Moreno forbade a private company from opening a privately-owned location in his ward:  Moreno didn’t like the speech of the company’s owner.  That’s it.  There is no accusation that Chick-fil-A has ever actually discriminated against an employee or guest; the only “action” Moreno can cite is a spoken comment by Cathy.  What part of “no content-based restrictions on speech” is too hard to understand?  There is no way Moreno’s supposed requirement that Chick-fil-A avoid certain donations would pass strict scrutiny.  And even if you’re like me and reject the entire concept of incorporation altogether (it’s the law, so I will cite it, but I do not think it is the correct interpretation of the Constitution), the Illinois Constitution contains its own protections:


All persons may speak, write and publish freely, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. In trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth, when published with good motives and for justifiable ends, shall be a sufficient defense.

So, Moreno invoking his shady alderman/mob privileges to forbid a private company from operating in his ward because he did not like the content of its president’s speech?  I mean REALLY, there can’t possibly be anyone who thinks that’s Constitutional . . . right?

Anyway, after all that, Chick-fil-A allegedly “pledged” to stop speaking on certain topics or speaking with a certain content.  I say allegedly, because if you go back and read the story, all of the information comes from a press release from some random group called The Civil Rights Agenda.  Chick-fil-A itself neither contests nor confirms the press release, there is no statement from Moreno (although you can see part of it here; the Chicago Tribune story is subscribers-only), and a group who allegedly received donations denies it ever got anything.  Chick-fil-A’s statement basically repeats what it has already said on the issue, and the letter allegedly sent to Moreno from the non-profit is quoted but not reproduced, so we actually have no idea 1. if Chick-fil-A ever actually promised not to donate to certain groups and 2. whether that promise, if real, was required by Moreno in order to get his blessing.

I could care less if Chick-fil-A makes private decisions about what to donate to whom.  I don’t care!  It’s not my money anymore once I have paid them for my chicken!  What I do care about is elected officials coercing private companies into making those decisions as a condition for receiving benefits (such as operating a business).  At this point, we do not know whether Chick-fil-A made the promise or if that promise was required–but if it was required, Moreno has violated the Constitution using typical Leftist thug tactics (and essentially solicited a bribe), and I think less of Chick-fil-A for giving in to the bullying.

(There is a chance that this random group is exaggerating or misunderstood what happened.  In that case, I reserve the right to change my opinion. I think what really happened is that the agreement was supposed to be confidential and this group, in a bid for attention, spilled the beans, but maybe it really wasn’t as shady as it sounds, so I put this caveat here in case we get more information that changes things.)

But don’t worry about your free speech, everyone, because there are more important things.  They have finally found bin Laden’s porn.  You can sleep easier now knowing that his porn collection has been bought to justice.  It was probably the gutsiest call of all.


8 thoughts on “Surprise! Chicago hates free speech

  1. Ish says:

    There are many reasons that I refer to the city of Chicago as “Mordor on (Lake) Michigan” so often that I actual have to stop myself, in casual speech, and mentally doublecheck that I say the right word. I mean, for the love of Capone, this is a city where one month after being indicted for bribery and kicked out of the legislature a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly is leading the polls by 40 points!

    Read that link, and weep for our republic.

    • Julia says:

      I have only visited Chicago once, for literally less than 24 hours. I really liked it, actually, which is kind of sad–they have a nice city, and they absolutely refuse to govern it with any sense of dignity.

  2. Stuart the Viking says:

    I have often said that there is a reason that people who live in tightly packed urban environments have a tendency towards statism. The statist governments of big cities are often hostile to civil liberties like free speech because it makes it harder to control the populace.

    Living all packed together forces people to rely upon others. Grocery stores, police forces, City water and sewer, trash collection, the list of things that the people in those situations CAN’T do for themselves is endless.

    Compare that with rural folk. No grocery store? Plant a garden, raise livestock. Police protection too far away? Shoot the fucker yourself if you have to. Water comes from the well, sewage goes into the septic tank. Trash? Burning barrel.

    Just about anything the urban folk are forced to rely upon others for, the rural folk can (and sometimes do) do for themselves. This fosters self sufficient attitudes in the rural folk, while for the urban folk this is a foreign thought.


    • Julia says:

      I never considered that the urban/rural divide as either the cause or effect of the statist/limited government divide. I think you’re on to something, though. I am from a rural area, but I now live in a suburban area and work in a very urban area–and it’s like living in a foreign country. The longer I’m here and they try to assimilate me, the more I push back. I’ve started cooking more of my own basics (i.e. making bread instead of buying it), and I’m trying to figure out how to grow herbs and vegetables in the apartment without the cats eating them or knocking them over. I’m distrustful of city water, so even though I think purchased bottled water is the most wasteful thing EVER, I drink it to avoid the chemicals. (Incidentally, a major brand of bottled water is basically my parents’ well water, which I grew up drinking, so I don’t feel quite as bad about buying and drinking that)

      What do you think came first? Do statists move to urban areas, or do urban areas make people statists?

      • Stuart the Viking says:

        It’s the classical chicken-or-the-egg question.

        I think it’s more that urban life creates an environment that fosters statist ideologies. There was a time well before large cities when the average person had to be self sufficient. There wasn’t a grocery store. Government welfare didn’t come about until the depression era. (and was supposed to be a temporary fix… temporary my ass. We’ll see how long the “temporary” extensions on unemployment last).

        I don’t think that urban life is the ONLY thing that creates statist ideas though. Some of the first colonies nearly failed because they were governed and tried to work like communes. From each according to his abilities, to each according to their needs. They found, as you would expect, that there were far too many who would do the LEAST work that they could get away with because there was no profit in doing more. Once they changed and allowed people to own their own plot of land and keep the benefits of their labors, suddenly people were motivated to work harder and soon they went from starving to having a surplus. Also, those who were unable to work were better off because people who were allowed to keep the fruits of their labors and had a surplus were much more willing to help those whom they themselves decided were in need and worthy of help.


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